This post focuses on the final stage of the research process – writing. The importance of this stage is self-evident – all of the hard work you’ve put into researching your client’s legal problem will be wasted if you can’t effectively communicate your findings and analysis.
Don’t miss the other Survival Guide posts
Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the writing stage of a research assignment:
Practice time management
Make sure you leave enough time in your research process for writing. Clear writing and thorough editing may take you as much time as researching. Plan according to your deadline. Don’t fall into the trap of dragging out your research to avoid nailing down your analysis and beginning to write.
Edit in stages
Tackle the crucial task of editing and revising your work in stages so that you can focus on one aspect of your document at a time. Start by reviewing the big picture – the overall purpose, structure and flow. Go back and edit for clarity and style. Lastly focus on the details. Proof read for typos, grammar, citations, links, etc. Check out this helpful tutorial on editing your own work using a 5-layered strategy.
Writing well is a career-long pursuit. Achieving the goal of clear, concise, accessible and compelling written work takes time, practice and also guidance. Where possible ask for feedback on your writing and accept constructive criticism.
There is also a plethora of helpful writing about legal writing that you can use to improve your skills in writing research memos, opinion letters, pleadings, contracts and, most importantly in daily practice, client communications. There’s lots to explore, but here’s manageable selection of practical resources to start with:
Neil Guthrie, Guthrie’s Guide to Better Legal Writing (Irwin Law, 2018) KF 250 G88 2018, 2nd Floor, Reference.
- straightforward, readable advice on fixing legal writing deficiencies. The book’s working title, Please Don’t Write like a Lawyer, says it all.
Justice John I. Laskin, “Forget the Wind-up and Make the Pitch”, Ontario Court of Appeal (originally published in Advocates’ Society Journal, Summer 1999)
- Justice Laskin’s widely cited article provides enduring advice on effective point-first legal writing.
James C. Raymond, Writing for the Court (Carswell, 2010) KF 250 R39 2010, 2nd Floor, Reference.
- aimed at both judges and lawyers, this slim text provides practical advice, with examples, on organizing your writing and achieving plain style.
Cheryl Stephens, “Plain Language Legal Writing”, CBA PracticeLink, 2014
- Part 1: Writing as a Process
- Part 2: Writing to be Understood
- Part 3: Mastering Modern Legal Correspondence
- University of Ottawa’s Legal Writing Academy offers free, interactive resources for improving legal writing skills.